Today is a warm day. It’s starting to rain again. This is July the 21st {2015} and my name is Dick Golden, Richard Golden and I represent the Columbus, Ohio Jewish Historical Society, not hysterical but Historical Society and I am honored to be in the home of Dr. Ken Uretsky and he’s going to talk to us about his experience and growing up in Columbus, Ohio and the Jewish community and the community at large, about his childhood days, his school days, his college days, his army and so forth. So I’m going to stop it here and test this to see how it sound and then I’m going to ask Dr. Uretsky a few questions and I’m gonna’ to let it fly.   Ok Ken, how old are you right now as we sit here in July of…

URETSKY: I’m 96, but I’m going to be 97 August the 12th.

INTERVIEWER:  On August the 12th you’re going to be 97, keyna hora. This is a nice thing to hear.  You look terrific.  You’re getting your meals on wheels. Tell us about some of the things that you’re doing  on a day to day basis right now.

URETSKY:  Well, I shave and bathe.  I didn’t shave today so, that’s one of the things I try to do every day.

INTERVIEWER:  ..You look like a movie star.. You look pretty good as for an

URETSKY:  for an alter kacher

INTERVIEWER:  I hope you can stay an alter kacher for a long time.  This is good to hear. You’ve got a great sense of humor.  Ken, I want to ask you, who were your parents?

URETSKY:  My parents were Molly and Solomon Uretsky.  We were related to the Mellman family.  My mother was a Mellman.

INTERVIEWER:  Was Greg Mellman one of your uncles?

URETSKY:

INTERVIEWER: So there’s a large Mellman connection in your family.

URETSKY:  All the Mellmans…. You know Uretsky is a Russian name.

INTERVIEWER:  Where was your father from?

URETSKY:  He came from a shtetl in Russia it was called kapreketish.

INTERVIEWER:  Kapreketish?  And that was in the Ukraine?

URETSKY:  No, I think it was either in Ukraine or it might have been in Russia proper.

INTERVIEWER:  When did your parents come to the United States?

URETSKY:  My parents came, I think he came in 1904 and then later on my mother came with two sons and a daughter. They came later.

INTERVIEWER:  Then you were born in the United States.

URETSKY:  I was born in the United States.

INTERVIEWER:  You’ve got a birthday coming up in August. That’s pretty good. August the 12th.  Ken, tell us about, where did you live in Columbus when you were growing up.

URETSKY:  Mound.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you remember an address?

URETSKY:  573 East Mound right between, smack in the middle between Washington and Parsons Avenue.  We were right in the middle.

INTERVIEWER:  There was s shul in that neighborhood wasn’t there? Where did you go to shul?

URETSKY:  The Agudas Achim.  I was bar mitzvahed in Agudas Achim.  In fact I had another Jewish boy that was bar mitzvahed the same day.  His name was Norman Mathless..

INTERVIEWER:  Norman Mathless.  Norm Mathless was your bar mitzvah partner?

URETSKY:  Right.

INTERVIEWER:  He was an accountant here.

URETSKY:  Right.  Right.

INTERVIEWER:  I knew Norm very well. He was a nice man.

URETSKY:  Well I knew, the whole Mathless family.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, now where did you go to elementary school?

URETSKY:  Fulton Street School.  I’ll tell you something else.  I was a, my, I came from a family of tailors.

INTERVIEWER:  Tailors?

URETSKY:  Everybody learned to sew.

INTERVIEWER:  So they were schneiders.

URETSKY:  Schneiders.  The word schneid means to cut. They would cut garments.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s right but schneiders, the tailors were skilled people.

URETSKY:  Right.  My dad was an excellent tailor. And everybody learned to sew.

INTERVIEWER:  So, as a child, then you grew up learning a trade to be a tailor.

URETSKY:  Right. Everybody in the family learned to sew because my dad had a tailor shop.  At first he bought one up on Broad and High.  The tailor that he bought it from, his name was Brock. Brock. B-r-o-c-k. He was a goy and most of the tailors were Jews and my dad was a shomer Shabbos.  He didn’t smoke on Saturday and he went to shul and he learned to be a hazzan.  In fact, he would go away and perform in the different towns.

INTERVIEWER:  He had the training to be a hazzan?

URETSKY:  Yeah.  He knew the whole megillah.

INTERVIEWER:  This is very interesting. Now where did you go to heder then?

URETSKY:  I really went to Heder School maybe for a couple weeks. [Menschnik?]  was the  principal but I went to my, everybody,  all the grandchildren went to my grandfather so he was my Hebrew teacher.

INTERVIEWER:  He was the melamed then?

URETSKY:  He was the melamed.

INTERVIEWER:  And that was your grandfather. What was his name?

URETSKY:  R. Dovid Mellman.

INTERVIEWER:  R. Dovid Mellman. That was your grandfather and he was your Hebrew teacher.

URETSKY:  Right.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, now you’re growing up in Columbus. You’re residing on Mound Street near Washington.

URETSKY:  It was right smack in the middle.

INTERVIEWER:  In the middle?

URETSKY:  There was a goy that had a used car business across the street.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok. Now where did you go to elementary school?

URETSKY:  Fulton Street School and my brother made me a pair of long pants.

INTERVIEWER:  Your brother was a tailor?

URETSKY:  Yeah. Everybody.  Even I sewed. Even today I still sew.

INTERVIEWER:  I should bring you my [?] you can fix ‘em up.

URETSKY:  I’ll teach you how.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok. So you’re now in Fulton Street School.  Can you remember some of the kids you went to school with, some of your friends?

URETSKY:  The ones that I went to school with. Uh, well you know I wore long pants. I was the first little boy in Columbus in the whole city to wear long pants.  My brother made ‘em for me and they chased me all over the yard wanting to touch my pants.

INTERVIEWER:  How old were you when you had your first pair of long pants?

URETSKY:  I got, I even got pictures.  If I got a chance I’ll show you a picture.

INTERVIEWER:  So you were just a kid but you had a pair of long pants which was the rage of the neighborhood.

URETSKY:  Right and I learned my “F” word from the shvartzes.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh boy, the nasty words.  Ok. Well that’s all part of growing up.

URETSKY:  They would tell me, they would get a smelly armpit on me and they would have b.o. galore.  And they used to “I   ?  in the closet every night.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, these are the things that are frightening for kids. What are some of the good things that happened to you in elementary school?  Do you remember some of the good teachers?

URETSKY:  I can remember all of them.

INTERVIEWER:  Pardon?

URETSKY:  I’ll tell you their names.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok.

URETSKY:  Now let me see. There was, for the first grade there was Miss How.

INTERVIEWER: Miss How?

URETSKY:  Miss How.   I called her this.  And then in the second grade I think I had Miss Cox.  Third grade I had Dawson.

INTERVIEWER:  Miss Dawson.

URETSKY:  Dawson. In the fourth grade

INTERVIEWER:  Miss Dawson.

URETSKY:  … There was fifth grade I had Miss Smith. In the sixth grade I had Miss Kafer.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok I’m going to play this back and see how I sound.  Hang on….?

INTERVIEWER:  Ok now you’re talking about Christmas. Tell us about Christmas at the public school.

URETSKY:  Well, anyhow. The janitor, he would dress up like Santa Claus and he’d go “Ho Ho Ho, By Golly, My gumdrop, you know?

INTERVIEWER:  You know these are the things you remember when you’re ninety years.

URETSKY:  My memory is excellent.

INTERVIEWER:  You’re darn right. I wish mine was as good as yours.

URETSKY:  Well, use it.

INTERVIEWER:  I’m using it. I’m looking here at the history of your house here.  You’ve got a lot of papers here and you’ve made a lot of memories and I’m looking at a picture behind you.  It looks like a good looking man in the military uniform.  Who is that guy?

URETSKY:  Me.

INTERVIEWER:  You look like a movie star.

URETSKY:   I look like what’s his name?

INTERVIEWER:  Paul Newman.

URETSKY:  Paul Newman.

INTERVIEWER:  You look like Paul Newman.  You’re even better looking that Paul Newman.

URETSKY:  Well, you know he was half Jewish.

INTERVIEWER:  I knew Paul Newman in Cleveland.  I went to the same school that he went to.  Well, Kenny, I’m going to go a little further and get you in to high school.  We’re now in high school. Where did you go to high school?

URETSKY:  South High School.

INTERVIEWER:  Was there Junior High before that?

URETSKY:  Mound Junior High.

INTERVIEWER:  Who were some of your friends in junior high and high school?

URETSKY:  In Junior High. I’m trying to think.  There weren’t too many.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you play in any sports there?

URETSKY:  No, I was also little. You know what an [?] is?

URETSKY: I would wear that.  My dad would make me wear that and then I’m getting dressed for gym, the goy asked me what’s that?

INTERVIEWER:  That was tsitzit you wore?

URETSKY:  It was.  It was called an [?]

You know what an  [?] it was a covenant.  It was a covenant in with the fabric.

INTERVIEWER:  You were part of the fabric of Judaism there.

URETSKY:  Right.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, so you survived all that.  Did they pick on you because of your size? Were you teased?

URETSKY: Well, The shvartzes, they annoyed me and they were fascinated by, everybody was fascinated by my blue pants.

INTERVIEWER:  The blue pants, it was an attraction for you.  Now did you learn how to maintain your wardrobe? Did you keep yourself real clean?

URETSKY:  Well, yeah. I was always neat and clean.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, I can see that your picture here in the military, you had a pretty sharp uniform. Now I see a medical emblem on your collar and an officer’s medal.

URETSKY:  It means that I was in the medical corps.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok. Were you in the Air Corps also?

URETSKY:  Army Air Force.

INTERVIEWER:  And you were a dentist in the Army Air Force.

URETSKY:  I was a battlefield surgeon. I took [?]  the second the wounded and the dead and the dying.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s quite a record and I’m sure…

URETSKY:  See, I went to medical field service school.

INTERVIEWER:  Where was that located?

URETSKY:   Carlisle Berg (?)  Pennsylvania.

INTERVIEWER:    Carlisle Berg (?)   Pennsylvania. This is where Jim Thorpe went to school as well, the   Native Americans’ big school there.

URETSKY:  Wasn’t he…

INTERVIEWER:  He went to Champion. He was an all-around athlete. Jim Thorpe.

URETSKY:  What did he do, mostly box?

INTERVIEWER:   He played football and track. He was a great track star also and he competed in the Olympics. Now when did you go in to the army, Ken?

URETSKY:  I went in to the army, well, they made us second lieutenants back in 1943.

INTERVIEWER:  1943. Now where did you go to dental school?

URETSKY:  Ohio State University.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok and who were some of your professors there? Do you recall anybody there that you can remember?

URETSKY:  There was a jerk whose name was Kitchen (?).  You know, he had his idiosyncrasies, whatever you want to call it.  He wanted you to do it like he would do it.

INTERVIEWER:  He was the “expert” in quotes.

URETSKY:  He was a paper dentist.

INTERVIEWER:  A paper dentist?

URETSKY: Never practiced.

INTERVIEWER:  He never practiced but he had a degree.

URETSKY:  Yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  Now you were in practice quite a while. Tell us something about your overseas experience in the military.  Can you share that with us, Ken?

URETSKY:   well, I wound up in India, China-Burma-India and I only flew when I had to because there were a lot of plane crashes.  You know when somebody gets killed in a plane crash, he’s burnt bad.  He’s burnt beyond recognition and you can’t recognize him.

INTERVIEWER:  now you know Hank Greenberg flew China- Burma-India route. Did you ever bump into hank Greenberg while you were there?

URETSKY:  No, but I knew all about him.  He was a terrific baseball player.

INTERVIEWER:  Right, and he flew in the United States Army Air Force over the hump many times.  He was China-Burma-India as well.

URETSKY:  I wanted to stay away from the hump as well because they had too many plane crashes.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, so you had some good experiences fine, experiences there.

URETSKY:  Yeah and  I always, the one thing I learned is to be careful especially when you go up in these  junky planes that they had at that time, you know?.

INTERVIEWER:  Now did you ever have to parachute out of a plane?

URETSKY:  No.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you come close to crash landing ever?

URETSKY:  No.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, it’s good that you’re sitting in a comfortable chair today, right?

URETSKY:  That’s right and I took that picture and sent it home.  That was taken by a fellow in the military and I sent it home so they could see that I was ok.

INTERVIEWER:  This is good.  So, you come home and what year did you get out to come back to civilian life?

URETSKY:  1946.

INTERVIEWER:  In 1946. Ok and you had never been in private practice before that, had you? Or were you in private practice before you went in to the military?

URETSKY:   I was in practice.  Sure.  Sure did.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok.  Where did you locate your office, Doctor?

URETSKY:  In German Village.

INTERVIEWER:   I remember it well.  Can you give us the address, please?

URETSKY:  900 South Third.

INTERVIEWER:   900 South third. You were there for quite a while.

URETSKY:  You know I remember.  My memory is excellent.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you remember any famous people that you treated as a dentist?

URETSKY:  Jerry Schottenstein.

INTERVIEWER:  Jerry Schottenstein. You treated Jerry Schottenstein. Well, that’s pretty famous. That’s a good start.

URETSKY:  I had all the Schottensteins. They were patients. In fact, Jay came to me when he was five years old.  Jerry brought him in.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, this is interesting.  This is a good thing to hear and what about your family, Ken? Can you share something with us?

URETSKY:  Well, I have three sisters and three brothers.  I’m number seven.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you were the baby?

URETSKY:  I was the baby.

INTERVIEWER:  What prompted you to go into the dental profession?

URETSKY:  I met a guy by the name of Leo Waitsman (?) and I

INTERVIEWER:  Leo Waitsman? (?)

URETSKY:  Yes, who had a brother named Danny who became a pharmacist.  You remember Danny Waitsman?

INTERVIEWER:  Danny Waitsman. Yes, he had a great Buick car for years, that old Buick car. It was on Main Street.

URETSKY:  Yes.

INTERVIEWER:  So the Waitsman family and you became friendly and you went in to dentistry.

URETSKY:  Well, I started in pharmacy.

INTERVIEWER:   You started in pharmacy.

URETSKY:  My dad told me “Go to pharmacy school,” because he had a customer.  His name was Sol Ritter. I don’t know if you knew the Ritter family?

INTERVIEWER:  I recall.

URETSKY: Yea, because there was Sam Ritter, and (?) Ritter  and Ida Ritter and they lived on Mound Street.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok. And how long were you in active dental practice, Ken? How many years?

URETSKY:  Oh, well, I practiced until I went in to the military.

INTERVIEWER:  So you went in to the military in 1943 and then you came home and then many, many years of practice after the military.  When did you stop practicing dentistry?

URETSKY:  I think somewhere around 1990.

INTERVIEWER:  1990.  So, how many years were you in active dental practice total, in from education, army and practice?

URETSKY: A long time.

INTERVIEWER:  A long, long time.  We can do the math, many, many years.

URETSKY:  I never figured it out.

INTERVIEWER:  Probably a half a century anyway.

URETSKY:  Yes.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, now I see you’re active here at your age and you’re getting meals on wheels. Tell us something about your retirement here and the Meals on Wheels and who comes to visit you and so forth.

URETSKY:  Well, the Meals on Wheels are delivered by volunteers and if you’re not here they have rules not to leave it, see.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you just stay home most of the time then.

URETSKY:  Well, I would stay home so that I could be here to receive the meals.  Now you know I was on the staff at the hospital.

INTERVIEWER:  Which hospital was that, Ken?

URETSKY:  It was St. Anthony’s. Then it became Park. Now it is Wexner Medical Center.  You know who Wexner really is?

INTERVIEWER:  Tell me about Mr. Wexner.

URETSKY:  His mother’s maiden name was Kabakoff.

INTERVIEWER:  Sure, she was a Kabakoff.

URETSKY:  Did you know the Kabakoffs?

INTERVIEWER:  Yes, nice family.

URETSKY:  Real nice family.

INTERVIEWER:  Ken, I’m going to have to stop here and see what it sounds like again. …

URETSKY:  …dance floor .

INTERVIEWER:  We’re talking about Ken’s younger life here, Ken Uretsky. Tell us about your dancing days, Ken.

URETSKY:  Well, Sonya Modes used to play. She had a combo at the Neil House and I would take a date with me and she’d play all the right music for me.  So, I used to do the rumba and the cha cha, whatever.

INTERVIEWER: Sonya Modes is still playing piano.  She’s pretty good.

URETSKY:  I remember. She’s an excellent piano player.  It wasn’t too long ago I saw her at the hospital.

INTERVIEWER:   Yes, and I saw her last week at, the Senior Citizens’ had a dinner, very nice lady, good piano player.   Who did you dance with? Who are some of the ladies you danced with?

URETSKY:  I’d always take a date with me.  I don’t know.

INTERVIEWER:  Can you remember some of the girls you dated.

URETSKY:  Well, they were good dancers and they were cute.  A lot of them weren’t Jewish.  Then I had a sister.  She didn’t believe in conversion or…

INTERVIEWER:  Dating out of the faith?

URETSKY:  Yea, in other words she had a philosophy [  ? ] either her way or no way.

INTERVIEWER:  What was her name?

URETSKY:  Dorothy.

INTERVIEWER:  Dorothy. What’s her last name?

URETSKY:  Uretsky.

INTERVIEWER:  Dorothy Uretsky. I can’t remember Dorothy.

URETSKY:  She never married.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok and I’m sure she was a good sister to you , too.

URETSKY:  Well, but she drove my youngest brother out of the house.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, we don’t want to go into that unless you feel you want to talk about it.

URETSKY:  Well, it was bad, she turned out to be a bitch and she didn’t believe in conversion or,

INTERVIEWER:  So, she didn’t want you to date non-Jewish girls. Is that it?

URETSKY:  Oh, she turned out to be a bitch and my brother, my youngest brother who was an excellent [?   ] she told him to get the hell out of the house and I said to her what the hell are you doing? You know what she says to me? You keep out of it.

INTERVIEWER:  Well we’ve got this thing on tape and if you don’t want us to keep it in we’ll take it out.  Is that ok to keep it in there?.

URETSKY:  I don’t care.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, the sun has come out again. It stopped raining.  You see you’re a good guy. You brought the good weather out.

URETSKY:  That’s right.

INTERVIEWER:  Ken, I’m going to conclude this because I’ve got another interview coming up but I want to know if we could talk again some time?

URETSKY:  Any time you want.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, is there anything you need right now that I can pick up for you besides a bundle of fifties?  Want a bundle of fifties?

URETSKY:  Take two  [?] Who knew?

INTERVIEWER:  Ok and we’re going to close it up here.  We’re very happy to see that there’s a World War II veteran here who’s in his mid- nineties.  I see a good lookin’ Paul Newman-looking guy that is Kenny Uretsky who was a doctor of dental surgery in the US Air Force who handled…

URETSKY:  No, I became a battlefield surgeon.   I took care of the sick and the wounded and the dead and the dying. That’s what I was doing.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s what we want to hear about. Do you have any medals that you earned?

URETSKY:   Yea, I got this shirt. I was in the China CBI Theatre – China –Burma-India . .

INTERVIEWER:  And we’ll talk further.  I’m going to have to close it up here and I want to thank you for allowing us to come in here and the Ohio State Historical Society would like to hear this tape if it’s ok with you.

URETSKY:  I have nothing to hide.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok, and also the Columbus Ohio Jewish Historical Society.  I’m going ask you if you’d mind signing a paper that you could allow us to put this stuff out so that other people can hear it.

URETSKY:  I don’t mind.

INTERVIEWER:  It’s ok?

URETSKY:  Sure.

INTERVIEWER:  Ken, I’m going to leave it here. I’m just closing up the great conversation with Dr. Ken Uretsky who’s got a birthday coming up August the 12th – hallevai – and he’s going to be

URETSKY:  97.

INTERVIEWER:  97 years young.

URETSKY:  And I don’t need glasses.

INTERVIEWER:  Doesn’t need glasses.

URETSKY: I don’t shake. My hands are..

INTERVIEWER:  How are my teeth.  Ken look at my teeth.

URETSKY:  Not bad.

INTERVIEWER:  Ok. I can’t take ‘em out. They’re my own.

URETSKY:  That’s sad.

INTERVIEWER:  I’ll keep my teeth.

URETSKY:  If you want to improve the looks of them, there’s a good laminate to put on them.

INTERVIEWER:  What would you charge me for laminates?

URETSKY:  I don’t do that anymore but they can give you a whole cover that you can..

INTERVIEWER:  Now what are some of the great advances and changes you have seen over the years?

URETSKY:  Well, it’s being more a good profession.  My dentist who takes care of me who has an office in Grove City and he doesn’t even charge me.  I go there and they clean my teeth.

INTERVIEWER:  And these are your own teeth.

URETSKY:   My own teeth.

INTERVIEWER:  Boy, I’ll tell you, you’ve got some goods genes in you, Brother.

URETSKY:  Yes, well, I’m going to go on to be a hundred and twenty

INTERVIEWER:   I hope you live that long.

URETSKY:  I want to show you a picture. I’ll let you see it

INTERVIEWER:  Ok we’re going to close up here. This is a conversation of history, real history with Dr, Ken Uretsky approaching his 97th birthday August the 12th, He should live to be 120.

 

[Transcribed by Linda K.Schottenstein]